At $3.8 million, a 30-second car commercial may have seemed expensive before Sunday's Super Bowl, but Monday morning quarterbacking shows it to be money well spent.
The game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers drew one of the largest audiences for any Super Bowl, with Nielsen reporting that 48% of households with a TV were tuned in.
That means a record audience saw ads from automakers like Jeep saluting our armed forces, Ram trucks celebrating U.S. farmers, Lincoln using and not using Jimmy Fallon, and a young Audi driver getting punched in the face.
But according to the number-crunchers at Edmunds.com, Mercedes-Benz got the biggest lift from its Super Bowl ad. The automaker used its spot (and Kate Upton, Usher and Willem Dafoe) to introduce the new CLA sedan.
The car, which starts at $30,000 and slots below the more conservative C-Class, targets a younger buyer who might not have previously considered buying a Mercedes.
Edmunds' data shows the German automaker is on the right track in pulling in potential new customers. Mercedes' brand consideration for the entire day on Edmunds' website was up 122% from the average of the four previous Sundays.
This was the largest jump of any automaker, Edmunds said. Lincoln was a close second, with considerations up 68% for Ford's luxury brand. Hyundai was a distant third, with a 24% jump in brand consideration.
During the Super Bowl itself, Lincoln also had success in drawing in a new audience. At halftime, interest in the automaker was up 518% on Edmunds.com; in the fourth quarter that number was still impressive at 419%.
Meanwhile, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen also saw impressive increases in brand consideration during the game.
But not everyone got immediate results from the Super Bowl ads. After Jeep and Ram trucks each ran emotionally gripping ads saluting U.S. armed forces and farmers, respectively, interest in the two Chrysler brands showed no noticeable increase. Edmunds said this was likely because the ads were "model agnostic," and didn't push one particular vehicle.
Traffic on Autotrader.com also showed a strong return on investment for carmakers who paid big money for Super Bowl ads. Search traffic on its site was up by an average of 245% for vehicles advertised during the game.
Hyundai was the big winner for the Autotrader.com audience; searches for its Santa Fe seven-passenger crossover was up 1,004% compared with levels an hour before the game. Kia's Forte and its aggressive robot spot juiced search by 750%, while the Kia Sorento ad with space babies was good for a 521% increase.